Skip to main content

Full text of "My Country And My People"

See other formats

THE    ARTISTIC    LIFE                     3OI

Sometimes we paint landscapes, and sometimes we paint the
pleasures of home life, for these are the two eternal themes of
Chinese painting.

The dragon is the most honoured animal in China, being a
symbol of the Emperor, who always had the best of ever}-thing.
It is most used in art as a decorative motive, partly because
the twining body of the dragon contains in itself such a perfect
rhythm, combining grace with power. I daresay we would
have used the snake also, had it not been for the fact that the
dragon, as a decorative motive, had a profounder meaning,
besides having those beautiful claws and horns and beards
which are always so useful in breaking monotony. The dragon
represents other-worldliness, the "fugitive" or yi principle we
have mentioned before, and it represents great Taoist wisdom,
for it often hides itself among clouds and seldom reveals its
whole self. For so is the great Chinaman. Perfect in wisdom
and in power, he yet often chooses to conceal himself. He
could descend to the depths of mountain ponds as he could
rise to the clouds. Beneath the dark waters of the deep pond we
cannot see any trace of his existence, but when he rises, like
Chuko Liang, he convulses the whole world. For floods in
China are always caused by the movements of the dragon, and
sometimes we can see him swooping up to heaven in a column
of clouds, amidst thunder and lightning, tearing up house-
roofs and uprooting old banyan trees. Why, then, should we
not worship the dragon, the embodiment of power and wisdom?

But, then, the dragon is not a purely mythological or ante-
diluvian entity. To the Chinese, the mountains and rivers are
alive, and in many of the winding ridges of mountains we see
the dragon's back, and wrhere the mountains gradually descend
and merge into the plain or the sea we see the dragon's tail.
That is Chinese pantheism, the basis of Chinese geomancy.
Thus, although geomancy is undeniably a superstition, it has
a great spiritual and architectural value. Its superstition
consists in the belief that by placing one's ancestors' tombs in a
beautiful scenery, overlooking those dragon mountains and lion
hills, one can bring good luck and prosperity to the dead man's
descendants. If the location and the landscape scenery are truly
unique, if, for instance, five dragons and five tigers unite in